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Why the United States Military Should Run Corporate America

by Jeffery Lay with Patrick Robinson

Pub Date: May 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59315-717-3
Publisher: Vanguard/Perseus

A former Navy fighter pilot and 24-year veteran of the armed forces applies lessons he learned from the Navy to Wall Street.

Assisted by Robinson (co-author: Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, 2007, etc.), Lay asserts that the crash of 2008 wouldn't have happened if the Navy's standards of recruitment, training and commitment to truthfulness operated in the world of business. “No amount of bleating and whining will ever let Wall Street off the hook,” he writes. “They darn near single-handedly screwed up the world. It would not have happened if they’d taken a very strong pull on what was becoming a runaway horse.” Lay examines the reckless pursuit of short-term profit and the proliferation of “evil and obfuscated” financial instruments, but his main focus is different. He worked for a Lehman Brothers subsidiary, Neuberger Berman, shortly before the 2008 crash, and he compares the firm’s former standards under the family ownership of Bobbie Lehman and his predecessors with what it became under Richard Fuld. Lehman Brothers, writes Lay, “had a rich and glittering tradition of building mighty American businesses, enormous operations that had stood the test of time—until personal greed became the only thing that mattered.” The author claims that many Wall Street firms lack any sense of “undying loyalty,” and he contrasts these companies with the Navy, in which “the past remains the custodian of the future, not the other way around.” Lay also discusses the training and education programs provided by the Naval Academy and the difficult qualification process for naval aviators. Shortcuts are simply not tolerated.

A different view of the financial crisis that raises important questions about business ethics and personal responsibility.